Out Of The World Of A Digital Marketing Agency. Between Search Engines, Berlin and Istanbul
2007 was a big year for the new era of the Internet. The iPhone was born; and so was the Kindle & Android. Facebook and Twitter became more global. Google acquired YouTube. While in Turkey, YouTube and other social media channels got blocked from time to time in the years that followed.
2007 was also the year in which Kubix Digital was founded by us, four former Googlers AKA Xooglers. Ok, the timing may not have been the best for Turkey, but we strongly believed in the potential of this market. Now 12 years have passed and Kubix Digital is currently operating in two locations, in two different countries.
Since the beginning of Kubix Digital in 2007, we have experienced various ups and downs as an agency - including national, regional and global crises. Nevertheless, we have not let our heads down and have always continued, with a smile on our faces and full of optimism. Ultimately very successful!
In August 2017, after 10 years of agency life in Istanbul, we have decided to found a counterpart in the form of a limited company in Berlin, next to the Turkish Kubix Digital. After the business was founded, it took another year until we started the operative business of the limited company. At the beginning of August 2018, the "Landing Crew" arrived in Berlin and the business of the German agency slowly gained momentum.
On the celebration of our soon, from an operational point of view, 1-year anniversary of the German office, I would like to share with you some insights on how we, as a company work, on one hand in Turkey and on the other hand in Germany. What differences and perhaps similarities there are and how these have affected our entrepreneurial development and continue to do so - in both a positive and negative way. My blog will partly make you smile, but it may also make you think. Well, let's have a look. I wish you a lot of fun while reading it ;)
1. Compensation Efficiency
A big difference between Germany and Turkey lies in the accuracy in 'how', 'what', and 'when' invoices and payments are made. I found it quite amazing that a short telephone call with one of our lawyers led to the fact that this phone call, I speak here of approx. 5 minutes, was listed and billed by the lawyer in the next fee calculation. I was surprised and this is something I will not get used to very quickly - and I honestly, do not want to get used to.
Our agency in Turkey has been working together with a law firm for years, but this has certainly never happened to me. One thing is for sure; such an effort would not be charged. That is something the law firm would never consider. I also want to point out here that I had already dealt with other law firms and lawyers before and that there would also be no invoice for these. The funny thing about the whole matter is that the phone call was made because I had not received an answer from the lawyer to an e-mail from me for quite some time, and for this reason I had asked the secretary for a phone call because I urgently needed information. Then the phone call happened, but I was the one who had to pay for it, although I actually wouldn't need if they had just answered to my e-mail before. So 5 min = 16 EUR, outch! An hourly rate with that one can already work quite well. That everything is invoiced, is not only standard practice with lawyers. Other service providers, whether tax consultants or other consultants, also act in the same way in Germany. Even the referral of me to another service provider, if it is exclusively about getting a service from someone else, which the current service provider does not offer in his service portfolio, costs money, because time is invested to establish a contact, whether via telephone or e-mail. I honestly think this is very annoying because I would simply take the time to do my customer a favor. I'm thinking that you don't have to compensate everything you do with money. Simply being nice and doing something good without anything in return should still be possible, right? That's exactly what I told my consultant on the phone, who referred me to another person and billed me for it, so I told him that I would have done it differently. My consultant then came up with the following example:
"Look Safak, I only have a limited amount of time to work a day, a week and a month. I have to use this time effectively. It's like cleaning a staircase. I'm paid after how much time I need to clean the stairs." I have no objections to cleaning or other honourable jobs that really demand a lot from a person, but I didn't know until today that the hourly rate for cleaning stairs was 190 EUR. Oh boy!
This way is not imaginable in Turkey, so I only think of the following heading: SERVICE DESERT GERMANY!
2. Experts Made in Germany
From my point of view, another essential factor, which leads to this kind of misery, is that the norms are set. In Germany there are experts for everything. Experts for this, experts for that, experts for pineapples. As soon as something lies outside the scope of the expert, your service supplier tells you that he is not authorized to give you this information or to advise you, even if this is a tiny little piece of advice, the subject matter of which he/she is actually familiar with, but does not disclose the information. It really wouldn't be anything earth-shattering to simply answer me, but no, unfortunately it's not that easy. The wish to simply get the information quickly in order to 'tick off and get on', thus fails.
If the same situation would have happened not in Germany, but in Turkey, I would have gotten the information I had been looking for long ago, because the person I knew, who is perhaps not the "right" expert in this matter, would have given me the answer without thinking twice. So why not?! After all, time is money see Point 1 :)
So, back to Germany. After one has lost in the meantime money and time, both resources, which are in the founding stage a very limited and valuable asset, orients itself in the direction, where one was passed on, thus from the non-expert to the expert, where it is "legitimate" to get the information, for which I was waiting for a long time.
Factor 3: Time
Well, what happened? I didn't want the first contact with the potential new service provider to be too direct, so I preferred to contact them by e-mail instead of making a phone call. After I had written and sent the e-mail, time passed, a lot of time. After that, even more time passed, and you could add another scoop of elapsed time. As nothing has changed since then, I finally decided to write a follow-up e-mail to check and ask what is going on and to please tell them to reply before Christmas, since almost 1 month had passed. Sadly the request didn't result in anything and so I continued to stand here empty-handed and with the certainty that I didn't have to expect a statement for this year. In any case, not to get stuck in the details, I would like to briefly say that the whole issue I had tried to address had to do with being self-employed, an employee, contracts of employment, social security contributions, tax brackets, private health insurance, mandatory or not mandatory insurance, application for status and so on and so forth, had dragged on so much that I was very close to in desperation at times. This whole process took place over a period of more than 5 months. Each time I was the one who was active and the other side was more reactive. I had to listen all the time to why they couldn't reply. The reasons were Christmas, New Year's Eve, a lot of work, illness, and Carnival. Yes exactly, you just read correctly, Carnival. When I heard that, my patience was over. To list this as a reason for neglecting your client. As a native Hanoverian, as a person of the North, I may perhaps approach the whole Carnival story with a rather distanced approach, but from my point of view, with this statement, the fox was clearly shot. I haven't heard anything like this in my life and I'm just trying to imagine what a comparable situation in Turkey could have looked like? What would someone have to tell me as a justification, which is comparable to Carnival? I simply can't think of anything. That is so harsh that it simply leaves me speechless. While I'm writing this, I'm shaking my head at the same time and you can be sure that if I had written this part of the blog not at work, but at home, the way to the fridge and the reaching for beer would probably have been the result. Cheers! ;)
What now? The first quarter of the new year was over before we had a glimpse. I wasn't accustomed to working at this snail's pace, I hadn't known before. I have never experienced turnaround times of several days or weeks in my life. My almost 12 years in Istanbul, whether with Turkish or foreign customers, have probably shaped me in a different way. We still have turnaround times of less than 24 hours to answer the customer and/or a potential customer, no matter what. For us, that goes like this snappy. Since our company was founded in Berlin, however, everything has been moving slowly, very slowly.
This speed reminds me a bit of the scene in the Disney film Zootopia, where the main characters fox Nick Wilde and bunny Judy Hopps try to locate the owner of a certain car in the drivers license office and the person in charge, the sloth called "Flash", does everything in slow motion and thus almost makes them desperate.
This is exactly the scene I experience in Germany, mostly in an infinite loop.
Not only that there are communication difficulties via e-mail, it is also very difficult to have contact with people by any other means. The people are somehow unapproachable. For example, I can call the bank clerk who is responsible for our company accounts in Istanbul directly - now hold on tight, I can call directly on her personal mobile phone. If she can't answer the phone, I can even contact her via WhatsApp. For some of you it may sound very extreme, but in our fast-paced world this is the best way to communicate effectively. I'm just trying to imagine that the Kubix Digital Germany account manager in our Deutsche Bank branch shares his mobile phone number. Unimaginable! The colleagues don't even have a direct phone number you can call. Everything runs smoothly through the service center, where a service consultant, usually after a certain waiting period, takes care of you at some point. And now the question is: how should the situation in Germany be assessed for a Friday afternoon? All I can say is have fun trying to get in touch with someone.
4. Banks, Finances, Payment Systems and Everything Else to Do with Money
Speaking of banking. What I also have to say in favour of Turkey is the excellent banking system. Everywhere in the cities you can find branches of all banks located in Turkey or their ATMs. For years now, you can use your plastic card, be it an DC or credit card, to pay anywhere; no matter where and no matter how big the amount is. I once bought a pack of chewing gum with a credit card at the gas station. Bought things at the flea market where the seller magically pulled out a POS machine under the counter. So, and now hold on tight; even at the baker you buy bread and rolls with your plastic card. There you go!
At the moment, Berlin Steinecke (a bakery) is advertising on his doors with blue stickers that you can now pay cashless. WOOOOW, we are in the year 2019 and in Germany you can now pay cashless at a bakery chain. Awesome! Nevertheless, I wonder how many years it will take to be able to make cashless payments anywhere. We simply remain optimistic.
In terms of time and efficiency, the online banking system in Turkey is very helpful and extremely advanced. Not only as a private customer of a bank you can do so many different things around online banking, also as a business customer you have different possibilities to handle things using the online bank as the banks have many different links to various organizations. You can pay the traffic fines that have been issued by the police; simply by entering the registration number of your car and see if a fine has been paid. You can check how high the car tax is and pay it directly. You have the possibility to see all debts you have, e.g. you owe to the tax office, online via your bank account which again, you can easily pay per mouse click.
With my bank in Berlin, I do not have the possibility to make payments so fast and efficiently, since the bank does not have these interfaces likewise. There is a lot of correspondence for that. I can imagine very well that Germany is the world champion in sending letters. Everything is communicated with letters and it is sometimes very difficult for me to coordinate, answer and organize them into folders. So the number of professional letters that I have received in our German agency over the last few months has not been as high in our company in Turkey over the last few years. Quite frankly!
5. There's no such thing as "I can't"!
Privacy and off-time are also very important to me. But during working hours all communication channels should be open to make progress, otherwise everything is extremely prolonged. To some extent I have the feeling that people in Germany hide behind their privacy. People use this as an excuse to stay in their comfort zone. As I said, that's really just my own opinion and just let it hang in the room. Let everyone have his own thoughts on this.
So, now a short question: Can anyone still remember the Blackberry times? VW was in the media in 2011 because the company intended to avoid e-mailing its employees after work in the future. Half an hour after the working day was over, the forwarding of e-mails from the e-mail server to the employees' Blackberry cell phones was switched off. The servers were only switched on again the next day, half an hour before work started. This was a regulation that the VW works council had enforced at the time. I find such an arrangement totally okay. Not only that there are unfortunately not so many institutions in Turkey, which protect the employees' rights as a whole, as it is the case in Germany. I can't imagine with the utmost will, as an agency in Istanbul, to offend their Turkish customers head and tell them: "Hey customer, please don't get in touch with me after work and especially not on weekends". Something like that would not work in Turkey. Absolutely unimaginable. Because the customer regards the idiom "customer is king" not only as an idiom, the Turkish customer usually really lives out this idiom! In order not to permit oneself such a mistake, one goes as an agency kindly to the telephone and/or answers relatively promptly important e-mails - otherwise it may well be that the customer will no longer be your customer in the near future.
So: as the "I communicate only the minimum" approach in Germany is not the correct one, but I do not find the "customer says jump; agency asks how high" approach also rightly out of place in Turkey. A mixture of both would be a fine recipe, which would actually suit me best. Who knows, maybe one day this will happen!
6. German Virtues and Turkish Flexibility
I actually love the German way of working, based on German virtues. Being on time, hardworking and organized is a great thing, but sometimes these virtues can become a bit of an obstacle.
These virtues are of course helpful in keeping efficiency at a high level, day after day. Everything is well planned and extremely tightly timed, but it doesn't give you much room if something else is up for consideration or if something unexpected happens. If a sort of species like me comes around the corner in a moment like this and has to find out something or just wants help quickly to solve a certain problem, then the whole situation can get a bit out of hand. In such a situation my dear colleagues in Germany are quickly overwhelmed because these kinds of quick reactions, flexibility, spontentiousness are not everyone's cup of tea. So the following thought immediately comes to their minds: HAAAAANG ON! Now slowly. That is not possible. Then it is possible that the other side can react a little bit cheeky and then something like this happens: "Well, Mr. Ebcinoglu, actually we are fully booked with customers at the moment and have capacity problems. If you weren't forwarded to us via acquaintances, we wouldn't have accepted you as a customer!" Yes, exactly, this chunk was thrown to me. First I had to gulp. The actual message in this message was "eat or die"! Either you are satisfied with what you get offered, or you look for another service provider! I can only say "pride comes before a fall".
At the moment, companies in Germany can maybe still allow themselves this way of handling customers, even though I do not approve of such an impudence, but the continuing strong economy of Germany can disappear faster than one might think. I remember exactly how it used to be, anything other than almost full employment. In 2004, when I had completed a very high university degree in Hanover, the economic situation was quite different. At that time, a high level of unemployment and little or no employment opportunities were the reasons why I had decided to seek my fortune abroad and immigrated to Ireland. Ireland was the "Celtic Tiger", as an analogy to the tiger states of Southeast Asia - an island in economic boom in the middle of the EU. A thriving country, where global companies such as Dell, IBM, and Oracle very early established their European HQs. In the early 2000s, Google entered the scene, and it was there where I found my first job. The country grew economically and so did its population. Many foreigners, especially from Europe, found a new home here. The growth of Ireland was almost unlimited. People became richer. More loans were taken out. A lot was built and real estate prices rose. Speculations gained momentum; which eventually led to a real estate bubble in 2007. The global economy went into a crisis; triggered by the global property crisis that subsequently turned into a global financial crisis. Before I go any further and write more about crises and the wonderful Green Island and its people, back to Germany. Well, what I actually wanted to say is very simple: The day can come sooner than you think, where not everything can run as smoothly as it is at the moment. By that time at the latest, you should think twice about how you deal with your customers. So watch out!
Another thing that I would like to address here has to do with meticulousness and trust. As soon as the most important general conditions have been discussed between the agency and the client, things usually move very quickly in Turkey. The client is curious to see to what extent our services are reflected in the digital performance of his company. It doesn't really matter much if the contract between the agency and the company is not yet ready to be signed and details, which could delay the start of the work, are discussed or tried to be solved afterwards. In Germany, the contract is first drafted and discussed in detail in all points. Every dot, every comma, every paragraph, and every subparagraph is analysed in detail. Many months may pass before the contract is actually signed. Until the contract has been comprehensively defined, a contract will not be signed, no matter how much time has passed in the meantime or how much time will pass.
7. Customer Acquisition
There is another difference between agency life in Turkey and Germany comparing the sales cycles. If it doesn't come to any extra delays and under normal circumstances, German companies tend to take longer to give you the deal when it comes to a new cooperation with an agency you don't know. A lot is asked, questioned, discussed, tried to understand. A relationship based on trust develops only slowly. However, once the trust has been established, it often happens that the client does not leave the agency for a very long time. A long-term relationship develops.
In Turkey, everything happens much faster and more lively. You start to work together faster, contracts are concluded faster, as mentioned above, or details are discussed afterwards, which can lead to the fact that the initially positive climate created by the spirit of optimism can change very quickly. Points in the cooperation that should perhaps have been solved at the beginning are now put on the agenda and it is difficult to simply solve these problems. By investing less time in advance, you try to eradicate the disruptive factors afterwards, which unfortunately makes the work between client and agency more difficult and you can quickly lose focus. It can even happen that the problems are so serious that a solution seems rather impossible and cooperation is no longer possible, which can lead to a cancellation of the contract. Fortunately, we have not experienced such a situation to date.
Of course one may not generalize and assume that such a thing happens constantly. In Germany and/or in Turkey the relations of the first contact, over the negotiations, signing of a contract, project start and duration run off exactly in such a way, as described by me. However, such a thing can happen tendentially often. In these situations I would like to see a more precise approach from German companies, but prefer faster response times with a faster-developing basis of trust, as is more the case in Turkey.
8. Only The Early Bird Catches The Worm
In Germany, people generally start their work earlier than in Turkey; according to the saying "only the early bird catches the worm". If you compare these two cities, Istanbul and Berlin, with regard to transport, there is a lot to be said for Berlin and the chances are much better that you will arrive early or on time. The most important thing in this respect is that you do it in a relatively relaxed way.
Unfortunately, this is not quite the case in Istanbul. I once heard that Jakarta and Istanbul have the worst traffic volume in the world. However, a recent study says that the two chaotic cities have recently been replaced by Colombia's capital Bogota.
Since rush hour traffic can be exhausting and employees are exposed to these strains on a daily basis, a lot of energy is already exhausted before work even starts. Unfortunately, this situation has a negative effect on efficiency. The employees are frustrated, strained and not on the level to mentally call up the performances which they could actually access if a certain inner balance would exist. Sadly, this very often leads to a situation in which the workload of colleagues is only just as high. Very often only the most essential things are done and one cannot blame the employees for not being able to outgrow their usual performance.
As a result, over the days, weeks and months, people are becoming less productive as they could be. This is why it is quite common in Turkey for companies trying to compensate for this inefficiency with overtime. But, this approach is in my opinion, exactly the wrong way to go. In the medium and long term the employees will be even more stressed, demotivated and inefficient. Unfortunately, it is an absolute misconception to assume that employees who work overtime do what they have failed to deliver during the day.
Managers expecting this from their employees don't really care much if the employees have a private life. In our 12 years of company existence, we started with 'not working overtime' from day 1. During job interviews, when the job interview was about to bring candidates closer to our corporate culture, they have sometimes asked us whether we really mean it. We take work-life balance seriously, and we don't endorse overtime and therefore don't tolerate it.
When it comes to work, I can only say that we as a company always have a lot to do, so that theoretically one could work 24 hours. But it is in no one's interest to just work without having a break and not having the opportunity to rejuvenate.
In Berlin, employees come to work on time, early, relatively relaxed according to the circumstances. With energy and drive they start to work. With this attitude, the chances are much higher that the daily workload can be processed at a relatively high level. The employees are more concentrated, more effective and faster with their work. Since they start early, employees are more likely to leave the office earlier. In many cases, besides the lunch break, which is used for eating and relaxing, there are also people who do sports or carry out private tasks. Based on my observations you can generally say that the working day in Germany is much more relaxed and coordinated than it is in Turkey. In my opinion, this is a result of people' s private lives. Germans have a more settled life; they pursue their hobbies, exercise a lot, go to bed much earlier. The Turkish people's private life is also usually more chaotic, so this also has an effect on their work life.
9. Eating Healthy
Of course, a balanced diet also contributes to individual well-being. I have noticed that people in Germany eat healthier than in Turkey. Breakfast often includes cereals, yoghurt and fruits. For lunch they eat more nutritiously. More food is brought from home, lots of vegetables, salad, less meat and low carbohydrates.
In Turkey, it is quite often the case that in the morning, carbohydrate-based food like filled dumplings with cheese, spinach or minced meat, and the famous Turkish sesame bagels are eaten. It's heavy on the stomach and unfortunately doesn't make people feel more energetic. Lunch is usually eaten more heavier than in Germany. In addition to Börek, Lahmacun, and Döner, food with vegetables is also consumed. However, in Turkey a lot of bread, especially white bread, is eaten with soups and main courses. Primarily it is important for many people to get full. This leads to the feeling of fatigue and the afternoon is less productive than the already challenging and ineffective morning, after all the stress in the traffic.
In our agency in Turkey we have meal tickets for our employees and everyone goes out for lunch. I have seldom seen anyone bring their own food from home.
10. Public Transportation vs. Anything But Public Transportation
In Istanbul, after the morning arrival traffic to the office, the Istanbul evening traffic awaits the employees at the eve of their working day. Even in the evening, many employees have a considerably long journey home.
If commuters are among the luckier ones and don't have to use one of the bridges over the Bosporus to get from the European to the Asian side of the city, or vice versa, they will still have to travel with millions of people at the same time at the end of their working day in Istanbul. In order to be able to imagine these masses better, how they go out of the buildings, how they bunch up at the bus stops or how they go in crowds to the metro stations, you can just imagine the end of concerts and sports events. It is precisely like this that crowds of people come together at such events, especially when they leave the stadium or the event hall. We sometimes have such exceptional situations in Germany, but in Istanbul it's everyday life. It is quite possible that working people spend two to four hours every day in traffic to get from home to work and back, day after day. So most people don't have much time left to shop, make food and do things of a leisure nature - let alone take the time to regenerate or recover. People experience this daily pace every day, at least five days a week. With many jobs it is even usual to work six days a week. This is roughly how you have to imagine working life in the urban jungle of Istanbul. So how can you demand full concentration and efficiency from your employees? That is simply impossible!
I always have to smile about this when people living in Berlin talk about the fact that Berlin is too big and it is bursting out of all seams and that the traffic is so bad. People get upset when the subway is 3 minutes late or an escalator doesn't work. In such situations I really don't know what to say and only think of this as an 'Absolute luxury problem'! They don't even rudimentarily know what crowds are. What a collapsing traffic system, which actually has nothing to do with the system, can look like, if really in rush hour, as in Istanbul, nothing works anymore. Absolutely nothing at all.
I've been driving in Istanbul for years. Since public transportation is not as developed as in Berlin, there are a very few alternatives to cars, especially if you live in the suburban area of the city and have to commute to the city center every day. I live in a suburb of Istanbul (Göktürk) and work in Maslak, the business district on the European side of Istanbul. In Berlin I cycle to work. Well, I have to admit that I live in the city centre and that my work is also in the city centre, which reduces the distance and makes cycling even more relaxing than it already is. I have acquaintances who live further away from the city centre, but still, like myself, use the bicycle every day. And there are much more alternatives.
Apart from the car, there is also the possibility to use the bus, the subway, the tram and the S-Bahn. If these alternatives are not enough for you, you can also make use of other mobility solutions. In Berlin, there are various providers who are taking advantage of this new mobility hype and offer trendy mobility solutions. In the urban area of Berlin, you can rent e-scooters, bicycles, pedelecs, e-bicycles, e-motorcycles, e-cars and rental cars at almost any street corner with just a few clicks on your smartphone.
Berlin's cityscape today is strongly influenced by this new urban mobility lifestyle. To get from A to B stress-free, you are much more flexible in Berlin and have a variety of options than you have in Istanbul.
Another indication that mobility in Berlin is more advanced than in Turkey is the possibility of leasing. I am sure you are wondering how? Is it not possible to lease cars in Istanbul for professional purposes? You can lease cars, but not electric bicycles. Just a few days ago, while looking at Instagram photos, I came across an advertisement from a German company. In addition to 0% of financing for the somewhat expensive e-bikes, starting prices as of 5,499 EUR, you can also lease a e-bicycle. After I learned now that there is something like this, I did a small research on Google and actually there are a few providers who offer electric and business bicycles for leasing.
11. If You Go Down, You Go Down In Style!
Let's assume that the public transportation system in Istanbul is well developed and you can get from A to B, like in Berlin, without any problems. Then it still doesn't automatically mean that you really use the public transportation system. In Istanbul, it is unfortunately the case that when people travel by bus and train, it is assumed that these people cannot afford a car. In Turkey, the car is definitely a status symbol. People are more likely to accept it if you drive a car, are stuck in traffic jams for hours instead of using public transport, have less impact on the environment and maybe even get from A to B faster.
In the early days of our company in Istanbul, I told a long-time friend from Istanbul that we sometimes take the metro when we have a good connection. My friend had looked at me in amazement and was in a state of shock for a few seconds, after which I asked him what was wrong with him. He told me in all seriousness: "Safak, please do me a favor and never say something like that again. If you tell a potential customer that you have just come to a meeting with the Metro, for example, you can be the best agency in the world, but you won't get a chance with the customer. You can immediately forget that he will be your customer. Nothing like that will happen."
I didn't understand that at first, because I tried to understand this statement with a logical approach. Exactly that was my problem - I couldn't get any further with logic. In more developed countries, the car is left at home in order to be faster with the help of a well-developed public transportation system on the one hand, and on the other hand with less pollution to the environment. In Istanbul you drive a car, stand in a traffic jam for hours, and it doesn't matter. You have a car and you use it. I never got used to this situation, but people in Istanbul just think differently. This, of course, is changing now in Turkey too as the public transportation system develops and also e-scooters are entering the market. But there is still a couple years to go to actually see the change also in people's minds.
In addition to various forms of mobility, predominantly based on electricity, this type of lifestyle can be traced back to a strong concept of sustainability. It's very prevalent in Germany and currently very much in demand. This trend can be seen in politics, economy and social life. Students are demonstrating every Friday as part of the worldwide movement "Fridays for Future" and go on the streets every week for climate protection, instead of going to school.
The German automotive industry, the engine of the German economy, is in the process of transformation in order to switch from combustion engines to electrical cars, in various variants with different technological approaches. German politicians, some political parties more and some less, are currently recognising that sustainability/climate/environment is one of the most important issues the people are concerned about. Especially for younger generations, these issues play a very important role. They are discussed and regarded as important by all age groups.
The fact that today the environment and sustainability play a major role in this context can also be seen with our German customers. When a German client said at the briefing that sustainability and environmental protection were an important part of their marketing strategy, at first we were astonished and didn't really know how to incorporate this into our search engine marketing campaigns. Sustainability and the protection of the environment are in Germany both for companies and for consumers the main topic, whereas in Turkey the public is less interested in it (as already mentioned with the topic public transport and cars).
Marketing in Turkey is mainly based on discounts, special offers etc. Creativity and current events play a minor role.
In Germany there are more and more companies that focus on ecological sustainability. Perhaps it would be too far-fetched to talk currently about a paradigm shift, but there are some companies which have their very own approach in order to make a positive contribution to sustainability and climate protection. I recently read an interesting article in which a Berlin-based company gives its employees three days of extra holidays if they don't travel by plane within a year, encouraging climate-friendly forms of travel and environmentally friendly destinations. In Istanbul, I have never heard anything like this in my 12 years in business.
13. Remote Working
Besides working in the office, I also work remotely in Berlin and Istanbul. If I don't really want to be alone (eg. prefer my own privacy to have full concentration and not to be distracted at all, there are a lot of possibilities to work from different public areas in both cities. Although Istanbul is much bigger than Berlin, there are fewer "remoters".
We started years ago to give employees the possibility to work from other places in order to get a change in their daily working life, with the aim to concentrate on tasks or projects besides the daily workflow, for which you don't really find much time in the office. Although the digital industry is actually more in tune on the pulse of time, there are really not many companies in our industry in Istanbul where employees regularly work remotely. The senior managers of these companies unfortunately lack the necessary trust in their own staff. It is very often assumed that employees who are not in the office do not work from elsewhere. In our company, we are trusting each other and on this basis of mutual trust it is quite normal for us not to be physically together. Be it in Germany or Turkey, everyone at Kubix Digital is currently working remotely 2 days a week. Especially our colleagues, who are in Istanbul, can escape the daily traffic chaos in Istanbul, two days a week, based on our company vision. That really makes a difference, it's appreciated and the team is happier and more efficient, and we as a company are also making our own contributions to at least slightly tackling the global climate change.
14. The Right Employees - Soft and Hard Skills
As I have just mentioned, trust is also an important criteria in the business world. If trust is there, internal communication runs smoothly and team harmony is at a high level. Now here is the question: Can you find people that are on the same page? Is it luck? Do these employees fall straight into your lap? That is far from it. There is a lot of work and selection behind it. To discuss this in detail, you might need an insight into the Turkish school system. Now you are surely asking yourself, what does the school system have to do with employee trust? I'll tell you:
In Turkey there are many young people who want to get into digital marketing, because they don't want to work in the field they actually studied after graduating. Where does that come from? Very simple explanation. In Turkey, which study courses are attended by which students depends most of the time on the average grade or points of the entrance tests. An entry test that prospective students take for the individual universities and study courses. Every year thousands of students attend the Turkish high school and exactly these thousands of students take part in entrance examinations all over the country at the same time. Once the results of these exams have been announced and the points have been given, the student is provided with options regarding which field of study he or she may study where. This means that many students do not study what they actually want to study and it is clear by the end of their studies at the latest that they will never practice what they studied.
If the field of study would be a criteria for exclusion in our job postings, then we should actually not invite most people to the job interviews, since most applicants do not have the profile to qualify as a digital marketer. For this reason, in Turkey we focus on interesting applications, candidate profiles that stand out, such as international experience, whether in the form of internships or a semester abroad, or exciting volunteer work or interesting hobbies, or other criteria that are really different and stand out from the crowd. If an applicant passes this step, obviously there are also a few others, and is invited to an interview, interpersonal relationships also play an important role: If you are on the same page, the chemistry is right, if this person would fit well into the team, how does it look with the ability to work in a team, if he or she is honest, can you trust the applicant? Soft skills are therefore an important criteria that have a significant influence on an interview. Based on interviews that we have conducted extensively in recent years, I can only say that out of 100 applications to any one of our job openings, on average only a maximum of 3 applicants make it to the on-site interviews and are invited by us for a face-to-face interview. Of these three applicants, only half make it in the end, who then gets the approval from us and may be a part of our company. However, since there are no half persons in real life, rather half things, we need about 200 applicants to find the right person among them who meets our long-term expectations. Based on these statistics one can imagine that it is difficult to find the right people in Turkey. This is really by no means a walk in the park.
So, now you've found someone who fits from a personal point of view, but doesn't really have that much expertise, which means that you have to train the newbie in everything. This individual starts as a trainee and learns most of the skills on the job and gets the necessary knowledge transfer and support from us. It takes at least six to nine months for us as a company to get a return on investment from the new employee. After this time at the earliest, he or she is able to reduce our workload and work independently to a small extent. Until then, the company invests a lot of time, money and patience to reach a minimum level of know-how.
In Germany, soft skills do not play such a significant role as they do in Turkey, since applicants can also fall back on existing hard skills, so that soft and hard skills serve as a basis for evaluation at the same time. In the context of the professional and university education the applicants bring along at least a necessary basic qualification, on which then can be built upon. Of course, there are also cross entrants here, but you can also rely on applicants who have learned or done something during their studies, that matches your job posting and can actively support the company right away and not only after six to nine months.
In Germany, students have had the opportunity for many years to complete studies in the fields of new media, communication, communication sciences, information sciences, and other relevant courses, whether at universities or universities of applied sciences. In addition to Bachelor's, Master's and Diploma degree programmes, there are also combined degree programmes where students have the opportunity to receive hands-on experience, i.e. the work experience is closely integrated into their studies. In Turkey, there are only recently various courses of studies which offer partial learning material which prepare students for a job in digital marketing.
In addition, there is also the possibility of obtaining certificates in Germany. The Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V. has been awarding certificates to agencies and service providers in various disciplines of digital marketing for many years. The industry association is currently expanding its offer to include specialists from the field of search engine optimization (SEO). The SEO Trainee Certificate thus certifies that the participant has completed the professional know-how at the level of a successfully completed traineeship. These graduates are therefore certified that the training level of an SEO Junior Manager is confirmed by the successful completion of the examination, so that this may present itself to customers and clients in the same way.
Based on all these facts, it may be easier to understand why we as a company have difficulties in finding and recruiting qualified employees in Istanbul. Those that we have chosen were the best we could have and were trained and encouraged during their time with us. However, this process is very labour-intensive and requires a lot of time, patience and commitment. In Berlin, we have the opportunity to access a pool of applicants that can offer us a variety of alternatives, tailored to our needs. You can hire project-related employees in the form of working students, interns and trainees. However, if you need employees for a longer period of time, you can also hire them on a permanent basis. It is possible to hire someone half time or full time. Also the fact that many people work very early in a part-time job, even if it is only a newspaper delivery or work at the bakery, brings a different attitude to work than with the young people in Turkey, who work after their studies for the very first time and until now everything has been financed by their parents.
15. Welcome To The Jungle
Both cities have their very own advantages and disadvantages and there are many more differences and, of course, similarities, such as life in Germany and Turkey, especially life in the largest cities of these two countries goes on. In this blog, I have only reflected personal situations, experiences, and thoughts, based on many years of observation, events and life in both countries. Finally, I would like to conclude with the following thought: Berlin and Istanbul are cities worth living in and I consider myself very lucky to be a part of both these metropolises.
Although according to recent studies by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Turkey is unfortunately only 152nd in the "Global Peace Index 2018" out of 163 compared world states. According to the current index for 2019, the world has for the first time in five years become more peaceful and therefore more worth living. Since hope, as always, dies last, there is still hope that life in Turkey will change for the better in the future.
For us as an agency and for our future trajectory, I hope that we will have a similar success story with our German business as we have in the case of our Turkish company. Although we have had to struggle with many handicaps in Turkey, are currently dealing with a weak economy, a fragile Turkish currency, and high unemployment. All these factors have a rather negative effect on our economic activities within the Turkish domestic market, but I am full of hope that we will turn the steering wheel this time as in the last twelve years. One thing we have definitely learned in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, is that as a company we are genuine survivors. We are not one of the big agencies in our industry. We are a small agency that has adapted as good as it can to local conditions and will continue to do so in the future.
A little evolution-theoretical thought on the way:
Compared to the dinosaurs, it was rather the small insects that survived a meteorite impact 65 million years ago and today are an essential part of the fauna of our planet.
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